Monday, September 2, 2019

All of Our Labor in Light of Hurricanes

It has been a different kind of Labor Day week-end here in South Florida.  The last time we had a storm this strong in our neighborhood was the Labor Day hurricane of 1935--yikes.  That one did not end well.  We will say something similar when we've had a chance to assess the damage in the northern Bahamas.

There will be much labor to do to recover from this storm.  Even with lesser storms, there's always much labor to do afterwards.

We are almost certainly not at risk of a direct hit in my county, although it will come uncomfortably close to land.  We are still under a tropical storm watch at my house.  If we needed to, we could grab our laptops, our few portable valuables, and make a run south--but this morning, it's not looking like we will need to do that.

We may have power outages as the wind picks up, so I'll spend some time this morning doing labor of my own.  I have some grading to do for my online classes--may as well get it done.  All of our schools are cancelled tomorrow, but we can't be sure we'll have power. 

It has been an odd week-end.  We have done a lot more physical labor than usual, from moving the butterfly garden on campus indoors to moving some heavy boxes of books to securing the property a bit yesterday. 

Yesterday afternoon I took a nap at 5 p.m., which I almost certainly wouldn't have done if we hadn't had a day off today.  I slept until 9 and then wanted to get up to make sure that our hurricane situation hadn't worsened.  It hadn't.

Later, I wrote this Facebook post:

"I was planning to stay up until the 11 pm hurricane update and go to bed. Now I'm going to stay up until midnight. When is the last time I stayed up until midnight? Not even on New Year's Eve do I stay up until midnight. Some people run marathons to prove they're still young. I'm staying up until midnight!"

I will also spend some time today doing the kinds of ordinary working tasks like cooking and laundry.  I've been doing that work early, while we still have power.  I hope that later we'll still have power, but I'm trying not to take chances.

Today I'm thinking about how fortunate I am, as I sit here eating my breakfast/snack of butterscotch bars and hot coffee.  Having gone without power for weeks at a time in the aftermath of previous hurricanes, I don't take hot coffee for granted anymore.

If the weather holds, I may also do the work of restoring the cottage--the first task of getting much of our stuff out of there.  We made some progress on Saturday but got derailed by a discussion/argument of what makes sense in terms of book storage.  I would live my life surrounded by bookcases--the sight of books brings me joy.  My spouse is not as besotted with books.

I'm also thinking about how fortunate I am in my work life.  Even though many of us will see today as simply a day off, it's a good day to think about work, both the kind we do for pay and the kind we do out of love. And what about the work we feel compelled to do? I'm thinking of that kind of documenting of family history, of cultural history, of all that might be lost without our efforts.

Here's one of my favorite quotes about spiritual life and labor:   In an interview with Bill Moyers, Jane Hirshfield explains, "Teahouse practice means that you don't explicitly talk about Zen. It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse by the side of the road. Nobody knows why they like to go there, they just feel good drinking her tea. She's not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn't say, "This is the Zen teahouse." All she does is simply serve tea--but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it. No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it's just there, in the serving of the tea, and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups" (Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, page 112).

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